KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ricky Kidd laughs easily now, and you can hardly wipe the smile from his face. He’s enjoying life as a free man after spending 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Kidd walked out of prison three weeks ago after a judge ruled the double murder case he was convicted of in 1996 was deeply flawed.
“I have been able to sleep in a comfortable bed. I have been able to eat my food with a fork. I have been able to cut my meat with a knife. I have been able to put my feet on carpet. I have been able to take a shower alone,” Kidd said, listing all of the seemingly simple things he has enjoyed during his freedom.
He’s appreciating the things that most people take for granted.
But that re-entry into society can be difficult, especially for someone who’s sat in prison knowing they didn’t belong there.
“They talk about when it all settles in, it can be rough emotionally. I haven’t experienced that yet. Knock on wood,” Kidd said.
He not only has family support, but he’s also receiving support from the only people who really know what he’s going through: others who were also wrongfully convicted.
In 1985, Darryl Burton was convicted of capital murder in St. Louis and sentenced to life without parole plus 25 years.
Then, 24 years later, when it was discovered evidence was withheld that would have set him free, the charges were dropped and Burton walked out of prison.
“It’s like, I don’t want to say Alice in Wonderland, but you are stepping into a world you have no clue about,” Burton said of his release.
Burton said he went from a prison cell into a fast-paced world with new technologies and different ways of doing things that was beyond his imagination.
Along with being homeless and unemployed, Burton struggled.
“My grandmother told me years ago when I got away from he Church, she said, ‘Boy I hope you remember to call on Jesus when you need him,’ and she was right,” Burton said.
“That day came and when I called, he answered the call, and so that is what we are doing. I am just answering the call. God kept his word, and I am doing the best to keep mine.”
He’s keeping his word by helping others like Kidd have a smooth transition into freedom.
Burton started the nonprofit Miracle of Innocence to not only help fight for those wrongly convicted when they are in prison, but also when they get out.
Kidd remembers sitting in the parking lot of a Walmart, going to buy a cell phone with the few dollars he had in his pocket, when he got a call from Burton.
“He said, ‘Put your money back in your pocket. Miracle of Innocence is going to take care of that, and we are going to take you shopping, put some clothes on your back and in your closet,’” Kidd said Burton told him.
“I don’t just want to be a recipient. I want to be involved,” Kidd continued. “I think that is going to keep me positive, grounded, rooted and most importantly walking toward the light.”
Miracle of Innocence is having a fundraiser called Free the Innocent Gala on Sept. 14. For more information, visit their website.